Handmade paper is just that: paper made by hand. People create handmade paper by sifting pulp onto a screen and letting each individual sheet of paper dry. This time-consuming, creative process has been used in Nepal, Japan, China, and Thailand for centuries to produce exceptionally beautiful paper. Experienced and novice crafters alike can make their own customized paper at home, with just a few pieces of specialized equipment.
Back when Egyptians were writing on papyrus, all paper was handmade. Eventually, this process became automated, especially for paper that would end up going through a letterpress or printer. Now, handmade paper is a delicate, customized, specialty product. Commercially available products often use non-tree materials, such as onion skins, cotton, banana leaves, hemp, or other plants to protect forests from getting eradicated.
Increasingly, scrapbookers and book artists purchase handmade paper for its unusual inclusions, delicate weight, unique texture, and value as a one-of-a-kind piece. They use handmade paper in gift cards, wrapping paper, photo albums, announcements, wedding invitations, picture frames, and collages. Often, these sheets have vibrant colors, interesting additions like gold foil or real leaves, and rich textures that make them utterly distinctive. Webbed mulberry paper looks like puffs of translucent clouds that would dissipate if you blew on them. Yet, heavy, dyed hemp paper is smooth and thick like bark with a pleasing, smooth surface.
Making paper at home is a simple and fun project that recycles waste paper and gives crafters of any age an opportunity to learn about paper. To make the pulp, you must grind up (in a blender) different kinds of paper such as newsprint, glossy magazines, junk mail, wrapping paper, tissue, paper towels, brown grocery bags, printer pages, egg cartons, etc. You pour this pulp into a tub with some water. Add special inclusions, like thread, glitter, flowers, yarn, seeds, rice, onionskin, or bits of brightly colored tissue.
To form a sheet, use a frame that has been covered with a fine mesh screen of the size and shape you desire. You can choose sizes for cards, gift tags, circles, or later trim large sheets down to any size. Carefully dip the frame into the tub and agitate it until you get an even layer of pulp settled on the screen. It will be wet and lumpy.
At this stage, sprinkling more inclusions will keep them on the surface. Some people weave strands or place pressed flowers into a specific pattern. When the paper dries, either by air or in the oven, you can peel the sheet off the frame and have a beautiful sheet of handmade paper with deckle edges. Deckling is the uneven, organic edge resulting from hand-sifting the pulp.